“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15,16
We live in the age where the professing Christian church is smack dab in Laodicea. Laodicea, for those of you who read your bibles, is the last church on earth right before Jesus returns in the Rapture. It is a cold, dead church that is “rich and increased with goods”, and they have locked Jesus out on the outside. Carrie Underwood joins the ever-swelling chorus of weak, materialistic “christians” who would rather shipwreck their faith rather than lose business deals because of maintaining a biblical perspective on life.
Make no bones about it, the bible is 100% against homosexuality in all its many forms.
The Blaze: Singer Carrie Underwood is making headlines after coming out in support of same-sex marriage. The country and pop singer, who was raised a Baptist, announced her support for gay nuptials during an interview with Britain’s The Independent. Underwood told the publication that she believes everyone deserves to love whomever he or she chooses, citing her faith as the basis for her reasoning.
“Jesus, Take The Wheel” no longer. Carrie Underwood rewrites her Christian faith.
“As a married person myself, I don’t know what it’s like to be told I can’t marry somebody I love, and want to marry,” the singer told the outlet. “I can’t imagine how that must feel. I definitely think we should all have the right to love, and love publicly, the people that we want to love.”
Underwood also told the publication that she and her husband, pro-hocker player Mike Fisher, attend a “gay-friendly” non-denominational church. The songstress went on to say that God wants Christians to love others
“It’s not about setting rules, or [saying], ‘Everyone has to be like me.’ No. We’re all different. That’s what makes us special. We have to love each other and get on with each other. It’s not up to me to judge anybody,” she added.
Already, Underwood has received the praise of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), a gay rights group. In a release addressing the singer’s comments, the organization applauded her, writing, “GLAAD commends Carrie Underwood for supporting marriage equality and rooting it in her faith.”
“You know, Carrie Underwood isn’t any different from anyone else in America. The more Americans think about how issues affect their gay friends and family the more they come to realize that supporting same-sex civil marriage is the right thing to do,” LaSalvia wrote in an email to the L.A. Times. “More and more people are coming to that conclusion — and that includes conservative Christians.” source – Blaze
When a church begins new small groups or Sunday School classes, eternity is impacted. New hands are put to the task. Easy entry points are established. Members are more likely to invite lost friends. Peripheral members become involved. And Christians joyfully rediscover the outreach purpose of the church.
Imagine what would happen if your church began lots of new classes this year. Need some fresh ideas?
Life changes offer opportunities for new classes. Provide a small group for expectant parents or engaged couples. (These will evolve into new parents and newlyweds classes.) How about a class for recent retirees or college students? If your youngest adult class has aged a bit, add a new class for younger adults.
Your church ministries may provide opportunities for new small groups. Example: A church with weekday childcare could invite those parents for a new class.
Consider establishing a new small group for each decade of adults. Fresh new classes attract newcomers and others who do not currently attend. Provide a list of new members who aren’t active in a small group, as well as recent guests and uninvolved church members. Advertise the new class in your community.
Look at growing areas in your church. If the youth group is exploding, you might begin new small groups for parents of middle- or high-school students.
Look at “holes” in your current attendance. What groups of people are uninvolved? What segments of your community are untouched? What types of new classes would include overlooked people? Example: About a third of adults in your town are unmarried (see www.census.gov). Are you organized to reach them?
Kick off a targeted new group with a themed study. For example, if there are lots of artists in your town, the class could begin with a short study of biblical art.
Ask church members to submit suggestions about needed small groups, along with ideas for leaders and names of people that might attend.
Challenge current classes to multiply themselves. The current teacher shares responsibilities and helps train a co-teacher, and then some group members go with that teacher to begin a new class. Small groups in our church plant are committed to reproduce regularly, and 24 new Christians have been baptized as a result!
It’s a new year. Will your church make an intentional plan to reach new people for Christ by establishing new small groups?
Diana Davis is an author, speaker and wife of the North American Mission Board’s vice president for the Midwest region, Steve Davis.
“So, you’re going to be a pastor.” Have you heard that before—perhaps from a co-worker, family member or long-time friend?
Even more, have you wondered what they mean? What is the underlying meaning of their question?
Before you get frustrated by everyone’s questions and concerns, take some time to understand why they are concerned. Pastoring is the greatest privilege to which a human could be called. The position is a humbling honor.
I think that’s why many people do a double-take when you announce your new role in life. People know that there is something special—even weighty—about the position of pastor. Naturally, they want to make sure you have considered the importance of the calling. Their reactions aren’t necessarily questioning your credentials as much as acknowledging the magnitude of the profession.
Either way—whether they are questioning your qualifications or acknowledging the gravity of the position—it begs the question: Have you considered the responsibility required of a pastor?
Here are a few questions to help you evaluate your readiness for the role. Before you say yes to the pastorate, consider the following:
1. Do you love people? I mean, really love people? Christ calls pastors to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17). The idea is to care for the spiritual development of the church with the same care that Christ exhibited while on earth. As an under-shepherd (1 Pet. 5:1-4), pastors are given the greatest stewardship in the kingdom: the stewardship of the sheep. The only way to care for them completely is by providing Christlike love.
Although the concept of loving people may seem like a given, don’t overlook the fact that pastors are often required deal with people in their least-lovable situations in life. Are you willing to put aside your own desires for the good of others? Are you willing to patiently listen to the pain in other peoples’ lives—and really care? Are you willing to fix a flat tire in the rain, answer a late-night phone call or sit with the grieving?
2. Is your desire to pastor more than just the desire for entrepreneurship? That may seem like a strange question, but many men get into pastoring simply because they like to build organizations and grow systems. While such skills may be useful in pastoring, they are certainly not the goal of pastoring. If you are looking for a place to tinker with entrepreneurial dreams, go start a business.
3. Are you wanting to prove a point by pastoring? Are you just looking to do it your way or show everyone a better way? Is your desire to lead a church in reaction to the way someone else leads a church? Grudges and personal agendas are terrible reasons to pastor. If you have a problem with a certain philosophy or style of ministry, have the guts to confront those with whom you disagree. Don’t drag an innocent congregation into your personal vendetta.
Similarly, if your motivation is to experiment and try new ideas just to see if they work (without any concern for the souls of the congregation), don’t even bother. Remember, congregations are sheep—not guinea pigs.
I’m not saying there isn’t place for trying new things. In fact, I love innovation in ministry. But it has to have the proper motive: loving God and loving people. Your focus must be on pursing Christ’s desire for the church over your own desire for the church.
4. Do you just want a platform to sell your products (and yourself)? The recent emphasis on pastoring and church planting are wonderful, so long as we guard ourselves from thinking these roles have an end in themselves. You do not pastor in order to become an expert with speaking engagements, books and websites. You do not plant a church in order to create a new model for others to follow. While those things may be great byproducts of the pastorate, the focus must be on exalting Christ by serving His sheep.
Whether you are contemplating the pastorate or have been pastoring for decades, these are questions that must be considered. Answer the questions—be brutally honest, and don’t be offended the next time someone asks, “So, you’re going to be a pastor?”
After seven years of pastoring, Scott Attebery was selected as the executive director of DiscipleGuide Church Resources, a department of the Baptist Missionary Association of America. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible from Central Baptist College, a Master of Divinity from the BMA Theological Seminary and is a candidate for a Doctorate of Ministry from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. You can read his blog at ScottAttebery.com.
Nanle’s congregation had wanted to hold a prayer meeting on Monday morning to mark Christmas. But they also sought to use the gathering to rally support for their pastor, Zhang Shaojie, and more than a dozen of his aides who have been detained by police for more than a month and denied access to their lawyers.
Rights attorney Xia Jun said he and several other lawyers who had traveled to Nanle were on their way to the prayer meeting when they were blocked by about two dozen middle-aged women and some men.
The crowd blocked the road with a ladder and harassed the lawyers, preventing them from either going to the church or heading in the direction from which they came. Xia said he believed local authorities hired the group to chase the visitors out of the county.
“The most serious problem in Nanle right now is that it is practically lawless,” Xia said by phone. “The atmosphere is dark and there are no human rights.”
A Christian woman named Shi Ping said she and several others from Shanghai who had traveled to Nanle were escorted to a police station by plainclothes officers who guarded the church entrance. Nearly 100 people blocked the church’s entrance, Shi and another churchgoer said by phone.
The case has drawn the scrutiny of rights lawyers and activists who say it exposes a county government’s ability to act with impunity against a local Christian church even if it is state-sanctioned. Supporters of the church say the county government reneged on an agreement to allocate it a piece of land for the construction of a new building, leaving them without a place of worship.
Reached by phone, a man from the Nanle county government said he had not heard about the case, while calls to local police and the Communist Party’s offices rang unanswered.
The dispute highlights the vulnerable position that religious groups hold in the Chinese political system under the communist government, an expert said.
“A religious group in China, no matter what group, is a weak, marginalized social organization,” said Prof. Fenggang Yang, a sociologist and expert on religion in China at Purdue University. “They don’t have the power, they don’t have the social status. Perhaps local officials feel that to take them on is not a big deal.”
Reactions from the Muslim majority to those protests were mixed, which might signify how Christians are, on the whole, perceived in Pakistani society. In the light of U.K. Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi’s speech in Washington, D.C., 10 days ago, World Watch Monitor has looked back over the period since the Peshawar bombs. A climate of much sympathy has nevertheless been punctured by several charges of blasphemy against Christians for actions in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.
A large number of Muslims expressed sympathy with the beleaguered Christian community (estimated at about 2 percent of the population). For example, Dr. Taimur Rehman, an assistant professor of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences, formed a human chain outside a Catholic church in Lahore to condemn the Peshawar blasts and to express solidarity with the Christian community. In several areas, Muslims joined Christians in their protests, while in others (Iqbal Town in Rawalpindi, Yahounabad in Lahore, and Michael Town in Karachi) protests were met with ridicule and strong resistance.
However, despite the sympathetic majority, four blasphemy cases against Christians were registered in less than a month, four times higher than the monthly average recorded over the last two years.
In all these blasphemy charge cases, no direct evidence was available against those accused.
However, some suspect the rhetoric around the church bombing influenced a few disaffected Pakistanis, who, seeing Christians as suitable targets, took up blasphemy charges against them.
“The Christians are the enemies of Islam and Pakistan,” says a representative from Jundul Hafsa, a subsidiary of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which claimed responsibility for the Peshawar attack. “Therefore, we have targeted them, and we will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land.”
The group says the church attacks were meant to avenge “U.S. drone strikes on the Taliban and al-Qaida operatives in the Pakistani tribal belt.”
“We carried out the suicide bombings at Peshawar church and will continue to strike foreigners and non-Muslims until the American drone attacks stop,” Ahmadullah Marwat, a spokesman for the group, told a foreign news agency by phone.
Christians across the country held street protests against their lack of protection in wake of the Peshawar bombing.
The city of Hyderabad, 750 miles south of Peshawar, came to a halt after Christians held protest rallies in virtually every corner of the city. However, some anti-rally protesters got in amongst the Christians and started attacking passersby and buildings such as gas stations, says Catholic priest Fr. Samson Shukardin.
“The situation got tense, but it still remained calm because the Muslims were equally saddened by the attacks,” he says.
Back in the north, tensions remain between the Malik and Pashtoon clans and the Christians of Iqbal Town, Rawalpindi. When the Christians there held a protest rally on Sept. 23, about two dozen men pelted them with stones.
Saleem Masih, a resident of Iqbal Town, says that three days after the protest, a Muslim desecrated a copy of the Quran but Christians were blamed. For the following few nights, he says more than 100 armed Christians guarded the Christian area in Iqbal Town.
On Oct. 29, at about 7 p.m., worship was taking place in the Pentecostal Saints Church of Pakistan in Iqbal Town when about five young Pashtoon men thumped the main gate, shouting, “Close this den of prostitution.” When the congregants came out, the young men fled the scene.
A similar episode unfolded on Nov. 2 in Iqbal Town, where a Christian convention was taking place. A group of young men again tried to disrupt the gathering.
“One of them said that they are the lords of this area and nothing can take place without their permission,” Riaz Masih told World Watch Monitor.
After this, a scuffle broke out between the Christian security men and the attackers.
In Lahore, when Christians from the Christian colony of Yahounabad were holding a rally, a Muslim vegetable vendor, Muhammad Akbar, known as Billa, jeered at them. He shouted at protesters that it didn’t matter that a “few Christians had died in the [Peshawar] blast.” He said these same Christians had also come out to protest when Joseph Colony was set on fire.
“He even went on to ridicule the poor Christian community by saying that Christian women were willing to do anything for the sake of two kilograms of potatoes, so what right did they have to protest,” Pakistan People’s Party Minority Wing Leader Napoleon Qayyum told World Watch Monitor.
Violence then broke out between the Christians and Billa, during which his shop was damaged. Since then, local Christians have boycotted Billa’s vegetable stall.
In Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, the Christians of Michael Town had to flee their homes following a rally on Sept. 23, after they were accused of committing blasphemy by pelting the sign of a mosque with stones.
A journalist working for a local news channel who reached the site when the attack was taking place told World Watch Monitor that “a large number of attackers wearing dark brown and green turbans” told him a text message had been circulated saying the Christians had demolished a mosque, so they had come to avenge the “blasphemous act.”
Shahnawaz Khan, a U.K.-based Pakistani journalist, told World Watch Monitor that brown and green turbans represent membership of the Sunni Tehreek (ST), or Sunni Movement.
The ST is defined as an ultra-radical movement, distinct from Sufi and Wahhabi schools of thought but anti-Christian and also against puritan movements within Islam.
“After repeatedly coming under attack from puritan Islamist terror groups, the movement itself has taken up arms,” Khan told World Watch Monitor while referring to his report on the ST published in the Wall Street Journal. “No other force in Pakistan so jealously guards the blasphemy laws as does the ST.”
Khan added that the ST’s taking up arms, zeal for the blasphemy laws, anti-Christian stance and turbaned appearance are all indications that they are the most likely group to have attacked Michael Town.
Although the Pakistani police initially tried to strike a compromise between the Christians and Muslims in Karachi, in the end they registered two criminal cases against the Christians. The first case was registered against three men (Yasir, Harry and Waqas Masih) for allegedly murdering a man who was part of the Muslim mob and who died in the stampede.
The second case was lodged against Ubert, Ilyas and Babar Masih under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. No criminal case for the rampage and arson carried out by the Muslim mob was registered, primarily because the Christians feared a backlash.
About 300 Christian families had to flee their homes in the wake of the blasphemy accusation. They returned after two weeks, following mediation by the Sindh government.
But the legal cases are still pending, and these Christians will face trial.
Increase in Blasphemy Cases
Apart from the blasphemy case registered against the residents of Michael Town, three blasphemy cases were also registered against individuals.
The most recent blasphemy case registered against three Christian brothers is the most extreme.
Tariq, Waris and Munawar Masih make fireworks in the Christian community in the village of Thatha Faqir Ullah, Gujranwala.
On Oct. 27, one of their friends, Khurram Shehzad, came to them and asked for fireworks for a wedding. According to the police report lodged the same day, only one of the five fireworks went off.
“When the fireworks that did not go off were ripped apart, pages of the Quran were found [inside],” states the report.
Farukh Tanveer Chaudhry from the Pakistan Minorities Alliance says a mob then went to the brothers’ shop and beat them up. He says some Christians intervened by extracting an apology from the brothers, who told them they did not know about the contents of the fireworks and were not intending to insult Islam.
“The family whose wedding it was stopped pushing the matter any further after the apology, but Shehzad and a local cleric, Hafiz Muhammad Raza Shirazi, still insisted a criminal case be lodged against Tariq,” Chaudhry says.
After the registration of the case, Tariq Masih fled the area and has been hiding ever since. Meanwhile, the police have detained his two brothers, who were not mentioned in the police report.
In a similar case in Lahore, Adnan Masih went into hiding after a case of blasphemy was registered against him on Oct. 8.
The complainant, Abid Mehmood, says he used to work in the Diamond Glass shop, where he met Adnan Masih. He says that on Oct. 7, Masih was reading I Asked the Bible Why the Qurans Were Set on Fire, written by Maulana Ameer Hamza, the central leader of Jamat-ud-Dawa, a political arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the largest and most active pure jihadi organizations in South Asia, mainly operating from Pakistan.
Mehmood alleged, “When the next day, Tuesday, Oct. 8, I opened the book, I saw Pastor Adnan Masih had marked several pages, while on some other pages abusive words had been used against the prophet of Islam.”
Other reports claim Masih had marked the pages with biblical references that refuted claims made in the book.
Aneeqa Maria, director of the Voice Society (representing Masih in court), says Mehmood distorted the facts in his report and that before the alleged incident, Mehmood and Masih had exchanged religious views.
After Adnan Masih fled, the police detained his brother, mother, aunt and uncle to pressure him to return. On Nov. 6, he returned to ensure the release of his family, which happened the next day.
The police then brought Masih to court on Nov. 9, though they are legally bound to present a suspect within 24 hours. His lawyer says the police feared a mob attack, which is why they delayed. However, she says the police tortured him during this period to extract a confession from him.
“The day he was arrested, after ruthlessly beating him, a deputy superintendent of police pushed the barrel of a pistol in Adnan’s mouth and told him that he would count to three and if he didn’t tell whether he had written on the book or not, then he would press the trigger,” she says. “At another point, the police brought him out onto the road at night and told him to flee, which he didn’t.”
She says that if Masih had fled, the police could have shot him from behind and later claimed he was trying to escape.
The Christians in the local area have been concerned about a backlash since Masih’s blasphemy charge, due to the input in the case of Jamat-ud-Dawa. Although Masih is in prison awaiting trial now, many still fear for his safety.
The third blasphemy case was registered against Asif Parvaiz in Lahore on Sept. 25, only three days after the Peshawar blast.
According to the police report lodged by Saeed Ahmed Khokhar, he received a text message that insulted Islam, the Quran, Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad. The case was registered under the Telegraph Act 1985 and Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
Parvaiz’s brother Wasim told World Watch Monitor his brother had lost his cell phone in August. He added that some of his brother’s friends had told him they received some text messages that were insulting Islam, after which the network provider was asked to stop outgoing messages from the lost SIM.
The treatment of minority Christians in Pakistan has come under the international spotlight recently. The most high-ranking Muslim in the U.K. government, Baroness Warsi (born in England to Pakistani immigrants), spoke about the difficult climate for Christians in a visit to Washington on Nov. 15.
“It is wrong to look at minorities in [Muslim-majority countries] as outsiders. We will have to stress that these communities are an intrinsic part of these countries and share their belonging [to these countries],” she said. “What we are seeing, sadly, is a sense of collective punishment, which is meted out by local groups—sometimes states, sometimes extremists. [Christians are] seen as legitimate targets for what the [local groups] perceive as actions of their core religions, and this concept of collective punishment, about them being seen as agents of maybe the West or other places of the world or agents of regimes is wrong, and therefore we need to speak out and raise this with the countries where this is happening.”
And the question might be: If you’re not in a small group now, how can it begin with you?
Here are five ideas to help you get started:
1. Start your group as a test drive. You don’t have to begin with a lifetime commitment. It’s OK to start with a toe in the water. “Would you do this six-week study with me (or with us)?” You’ll probably begin to get the hang of it in about week three or four. When you get to about week five, you might actually start looking forward to spending time with your group.
2. Hand-pick the members of your group. It shouldn’t be open to everyone. Hand-selecting your group members will give you (and your spouse) confidence that you can do life together. Choose people you like to spend time with. Choose people who are refreshing to be around. Choose people you already trust. Be prepared to say, “I hope you understand, but our group isn’t an open group. Might be someday, but not right now.”
3. You don’t have to lead your group. When you include the right members, the group doesn’t need to meet at your house and you won’t need to facilitate the meetings or provide all the snacks. Your group meetings can be all about building relationships and experiencing authentic community.
4. Choose the best possible time for you and your family. Your group can also meet with the frequency that works for you. You know the rhythm of your life. Choose a meeting time that makes sense for you. The right members will accommodate your situation. Note: Frequency is an important ingredient of authentic community. The more frequently you meet, the easier it becomes to reconnect.
5. Choose a study that requires no preparation. It shouldn’t be work or one more thing to get done. Choosing a simple “show up” study makes it easy to focus on relationships.
When I was in college, I read a survey posted by a Sociology major titled, Terrible Travels. The idea was for people to list places they hated being, but for some reason still felt compelled to attend. “The DMV”, “Airports”, and “The Dentist” were entries that would surprise no one, but as I got toward the middle I noticed another one, “Church”. Normally this wouldn’t have bothered me, but I went to a Christian college. It seemed even Christians didn’t want to go to church.
So what happened? How did the act of going to Church, which once led to joy and celebration, turn into such a chore? I’m sure many theologians will have much wiser answers than I do, but for my part, I believe it’s because many churches have stopped being families. In a recent article by Sarah Bessey, the author describes how her Church is more than an institution for believers, it is a home for all those who seek to know Christ.
“Because at the end of the service, they practice the priesthood of all believers and anyone can pray for anyone else. Just go ahead and pray, go ahead. Talk to each other, you don’t need a sanctioned commissioning, you are already part of this Body so go on then. Because I need to be around people who love Jesus, too. Because I know Jesus better when I hear about Him from other people who follow Him, too.”
“Because I almost always encounter the Holy Spirit in a profound, sideways sort of way when we’re gathered together in His name. Because then I leave and I go back out into my world, my neighborhood, my life, and there is always the promise of next week. Because some of my greatest wounds have come from church and so my greatest healing has happened here, too.”
People underestimate the power of family. Family offers unconditional love, it offers understanding and safety, discipline but fairness, and a place to turn when you feel lost. Or at least it’s supposed to. In recent years, the Church has behaved more like a moral autocrat than a loving parent, and this position has cost believers and non-believers alike. If we are to repair the damage we’ve done, a fully represent the image of Christ, we must change our approach.
“‘Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdomprepared for you since the creation of the world.For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me,I was sick and you looked after me,I was in prison and you came to visit me.’“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” – Matthew 25:34-40
It is time for the Church to become a home. A place where the poor and lonely can find a family they never knew. No one connected by blood, but by something stronger. By the unshakable spirit, and unending love, of Jesus Christ.
*Ryan Duncan is the Culture Editor for Crosswalk.com